Landing Interviews Made Simple

I have taken up Toastmasters to work on my public speaking.  Below is speech 2 from the competent communicator handbook.

I’m a bit of a legend in my social circle for my ability to land job interviews when I’m ready to make a move. I relocated back to Los Angeles in the summer of 2012 and landed interviews with 23 companies in 10 weeks. As a result, several times a year someone in my network calls asking for advice about an upcoming job search.

While I could probably run a whole workshop on this topic, tonight, I’m going to give you my top three pieces of advice when embarking on the journey to a new job.

Unless you’re in the truly upper echelons of senior management and are deeply networked, you’re probably starting with a resume refresh.

Thus, my first suggestion is on resume length. How long is your existing resume? 2 pages? More?

For most non-executive roles, I would argue that a 1-page performance resume is going to land you more interviews than a laundry list of jobs and responsibilities.

Eye tracking software used in a study done by The Ladders ($100K+ job site for $100K+ jobs) found that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds on your resume. If you have a multi-page resume, how much are they really going to take away from a multi-page list of every role and responsibility you’ve had over the last 10 -15 years? Not much.

Performance resumes are geared toward quantifying your roles in terms of your successes:

You “increased content syndication profit by 75% with targeted outreach that generated 5 new cross-platform distribution deals” beats “expanded formal content syndication relationships. “

Industry-relevant, action-verb laden bullets that outline what you’ve done demonstrate that you make the most of your workplace swim lane.

They also allow for you personality and values to come through in a way that standard resume line items will not.

I have a line item about how I use a “community candy bowl’ on my desk as a mood barometer that allows me to act co-worker frustrations. Interviewers never fail to ask me about the candy bowl. It’s a creative way to measure stress levels, it makes my desk a place where people can vent (giving me the information I need to clear bottle necks), and it’s a relatively low effort way to show my co-workers I care and can provide a safe space for resolving problems.

Performance resumes allow the intangibles that are invaluable to team building to come through that make you stand out from other candidates.

So we’ve talked resumes, but now let’s talk about how you make the decision as to which job to apply for.

This may sound like crazy advice, but don’t let the job description keep you from applying for the job.

A Hewlitt Packard report found that women will only apply for jobs when they meet ALL requirements in the description, whereas men throw their hat in the ring if they match 60% of the noted responsibilities.

When journalist Tara Sophia Mohr did some follow up research for Harvard Business Review to find out why that is – the primary reason for not applying for a jobs – regardless of gender – is that candidates don’t want to waste time on applications for roles they don’t meet the written qualifications for because they don’t expect to get hired.

The thing about job descriptions – they’re wish lists. Unless the job description is written with a particular candidate in mind – and that does happen — the odds of anyone being a perfect fit for a very detailed job description is slim.

So if it’s a company you’re interested in and a role you believe you can do, apply and make the case for why you’re the right hire.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a job at a media company in line with my recreational reading interests. And while the role seemed considerably more technical then I am right now, I applied anyway.

Got a call the next day from a very jazzed recruiter – my background was exactly what they were looking for. Which was a bit of a surprise to me given how technical the job description was and how I function in a more cross-functional capacity, but I went with it. Did a second round. Took a timed skills test. Went in for a third round. Got and accepted the offer. For a job that I thought I was maybe more than 50% qualified for.

Job descriptions are not an exact science, and they’re really hard to write well. Too generic and it signals the employer just don’t know what it’s looking for. Too specific and exacting, and they’re going to turn away a lot of candidates who would bring value to the team.

So the take away here is to try to read between the lines as to what an employer likely needs based on available company and market data, and apply anyway even if you’re not an exact match.

Finally, at some point you’re actually applying for roles. We could have a whole separate conversation about actually getting ahead of the job postings, but most people are still applying based on what shows up on job boards and the careers sections of their target companies.

So my last tip this evening is that if you’re applying via the online application platform and are waiting for a recruiter to pluck you out of obscurity — truth – you’re doing it wrong. Your mission if you want the job is to get it into the hands of the hiring manager.

It’s not uncommon to get 100s of applications for a single job posting. Few recruiters are going to painstaking read through every cover letter and resume. They will screen then until they have a viable pool and stop. (Bonus tip: apply early.)

They filter submissions by keywords related to the skills and experience needed for the job. They filter by geography. If your application isn’t loaded with the right language, it doesn’t matter if that job was written for you in mind.

Most job descriptions reference a department. Some even do you the favor of including the title of the person the role reports to.

LinkedIn is an incredible resource for the sleuthing and outreach that come next, so spring for a premium account. (And save your receipts because job hunting expenses are tax deductible.)

Once you find the company profile on LinkedIn, you can filter through employees to find the recruiters, key people in the department the opening is within and even the hiring manager itself if the reporting lines are noted in the job opening.

I tend to take a double-pronged approach and message both the direct hiring manager and the recruiter. And I’ll include a Dropbox link to my resume in the note, so they don’t have to go looking for it.

If you have 2nd or 3rd degree connections to your targets, you can also ask your contacts to pass your resume along. People like hiring candidates that come through connections; if we both know the same people, you must be OK.

I landed the interview for my last position because my resume landed on my boss’s desk via two people from two very different departments. And if I was resourceful enough to pull that off, she wanted to know what else I could do.

It’s not a sure thing. But it beats crossing your fingers and hoping someone finds your resume in the pile.   And as a recruiter friend has pointed out, job candidates aren’t annoying in following up until they’re told they’re annoying, so trying to put yourself on someone’s radar is low risk and potentially very high reward.

Finding a new job is rarely going to be a low stress proposition, but if you work your strengths, broaden your definition of what makes you a qualified candidate and do your damnedest to get noticed, your odds just got a lot better.